Many skills and areas of knowledge are required to start and run a farm business. Most successful producers recommend several years’ experience on well-managed operations before starting a new farm.
Starting A New Farm
- BC Government Programs and services available for new farmers include:
- Agriculture Management Institute (AMI) offers a suite of tools and resources for new and growing farms:
- Starting Your Farm Business includes online tools for farm planning and budgeting.
- Indigenous Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative provides a variety of support to Indigenous communities and entrepreneurs to launch agricultural projects, and to others who want to build their agricultural capacity.
- Chris Bodnar, a farm business management specialist, presented these resources at a KBFA workshop:
- Personal and Family Considerations Checklist.
- See the Future and Farm That You Want Creativity Planner.
- Plan to Succeed Business Plan Worksheet (the one-page business plan).
- Starting a Farm Business Plan (powerpoint presentation).
- Young Agrarians works with a wide range of collaborators to grow supports for new farmers, including events, land access programs, farm apprenticeships, business mentorships, and community building.
- BC Young Farmers is an association of BCAC whose members are 19 to 40 years old and work in many different agricultural sectors.
KBFA’s focuses on technical production issues, but a farm’s viability depends on an economical business plan and sound finances. Currently, most farm business inquiries are handled by the Basin Business Advisors.
The following programs offer professional consultations and business mentorships:
- Basin Business Advisors (BBA) provides free, confidential business counselling and assessment services to primary producers in the Columbia Basin to help strengthen their farm businesses.
- BC Agri-Business Planning Program allows eligible applicants to access funds for business planning services from a Qualified Business Consultant.
- Young Agrarians Business Mentorship Program offers business mentorship support to new farmers, and links to many online resources.
- Community Futures operates through local branches to provide a wide range of courses and consulting services for small businesses. Traceability Value-Chain Program funds improvements to “supply chains” of two or more agrifood businesses.
- Small Business BC helps entrepreneurs get expert business advice, educational services, and resources.
- BC Indigenous Agriculture Development Program provides financial and business planning support to develop agricultural opportunities for Indigenous communities and organizations.
- Business Scale-up and Productivity Program (BSP) offers interest-free funding to western Canadian businesses to scale up and be more productive and competitive. Value-added agriculture is a program priority.
- Bioenterprise BC provides agri-tech startups with business planning, market analysis and funding guidance.
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Enterprise Budgets give costs and returns for 26 common vegetable and livestock enterprises in southwest British Columbia, specifically for small-scale farms selling by direct marketing, such as farmers’ markets and CSA box programs.
KBFA Workshops - Cost of Production
- Chris Bodnar gave a KBFA workshop (summarized here) on calculating unit costs and overall cost of production for vegetable farms.
- Ben Hartman gave a KBFA workshop (summarized here) on “lean” farming.
- Steve Kenyon gave a KBFA workshop (summarized here) on using grazing charts and gross margin analysis to ensure grazing operations are profitable (see event archive to download spreadsheet templates.)
- Canadian Agriculture Loans Act (CALA) is a program to help agricultural producers and cooperatives get loans from financial institutions by sharing the risk with lenders. (See also Canada Small Business Financing Program.)
- Farm Debt Mediation Service (FDMS) offers free and voluntary financial counselling and mediation services to producers in financial difficulty and their creditors.
- Farm Credit Canada, a Crown Corporation, invests entirely in agriculture.
- Through CALA, several banks offer loans to new entrants (e.g. BMO, Scotia Bank, Royal Bank, Vancity).
- Advance Payment Program gives agricultural producers cash advances.
- Export Development Canada (EDC) is a federal export credit agency offering financial and risk management for businesses expanding into international (including US) markets.
Federal Relief Programs
- AgriInsurance provides cost-shared insurance for natural hazard impacts on farm production and profits.
- AgriRecovery provides financial assistance to agricultural producers suffering the impacts of a disaster.
- AgriInvest provides matching contributions to an “AgriInvest account” to manage income declines or investments to mitigate risks or improve market income.
- AgriStability provides income support to producers who experience a large margin decline.
Labour & Management
Farm Labour Regulations
- Hiring Farm Workers is a BC Government site with information on employer and employee rights and responsibilities.
Job Posting Sites
Free Canadian Sites
Paid Posting Services
- Agriculture Youth Green Jobs Initiative (currently expired) is a cost-share program for farm operators who provide internships for high school students and post-secondary graduates.
- Canada Summer Jobs Program offers up to 50% of minimum wage for employers of youth aged 15 to 30. Applications are usually accepted in February.
- Get Youth Working! Program offers wage subsidies for employers of youth aged 18 to 24.
- ECO Canada Employment Progams offer wage subsidies to “environmental employers” to drive valuable on-the-job work experience and essential skills training for “skilled junior talent.”
- Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) is a federal program for agricultural producers of primary products hiring Temporary Foreign Workers from Mexico or Caribbean countries for 8 months or less per year.
- Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) Program in BC requires employers to be registered with TFW in BC. Employers can work with licensed recruiters to find workers and assist with the process.
- BC Employer Training Grant (ETG) provides funding to employers to support skills training for employees.
Tools and Resources
- BC Agrifood and Seafood Market Development Program provides cost-share funding for marketing skills training, conducting market research, and developing strategic plans to prepare businesses for new domestic and international markets, and to assist exporters to expand their markets outside BC.
- AgriMarketing Program helps small and medium-sized businesses implement international export plans, including marketing and promotion.
- Canada Pavillion Program makes trade show participation easier at international food and beverage events.
- Agri-tourism as a Diversification Tool: view presentation materials on strategy, tactics and levels of agritourism.
- CanadaGAP is a fruit and vegetable certification and auditing program.
- Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC) encompasses Organic certifying organizations, which include:
- AgriAssurance helps businesses certifying with a third party to fulfill international market requirements.
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